On a recent trip to the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas, I watched the actions of a six year old boy. I’m going to call him Bradley. From my vantage point, at first I could only see him, not his family. He ran full speed to the top of a popular pedestrian bridge over the river.
Thrusting his silver wooden sword high into the air, Bradley donned a huge grin and yelled out, “Hey, look at me! Mom, take a picture!” (Having raised two boys, I could relate to the enthusiasm.) Not receiving the reaction he was seeking, he continued calling out to take his picture, come on, take it!
Instead, a teenage brother showed up next to him on the bridge. That didn’t sit well with Bradley and he began turning away. Obviously, mom was attempting to take a photo with the two boys, but that wasn’t the plan of the younger. The older sibling tried picking Bradley up to force him to cooperate but all he received was squirming and kicking. Oh, and then more siblings showed up. Two middle sisters that tried to gain control of the baby of the family, but he wouldn’t have it.
Mom finally appeared to settle things. She posed with all four children. Bradley’s face scowling, arms folded, back turned to everyone. (I wonder if he’ll remember that particular day when he sees the photograph in his twenties.) After the picture was snapped, Dad walked onto the bridge and the family all crossed over to continue their afternoon stroll down the Riverwalk.
Recognizing her youngest was not happy in the least, Mom motioned for Bradley to stand on the bridge so she could take his photograph. After much coaxing, he obliged, but the enthusiasm had completely evaporated. Half-heartedly, Bradley raised his sword, furrowed eyebrows, no smile. It just wasn’t the same.
Any parent with more than one child will likely recognize this situation. We do our best, but sometimes we disappoint.
I spent the last month furiously writing a feature length screenplay for a competition. In it there is a scene on a playground. The children swing on the monkey bars, hang upside down by their legs, run after each other, laugh and shout playfully. They beckon their parents to watch them master the slide, push them on the swing, see what they can do. The adults wave and keep texting. Smile and continue chatting with other parents. Ignore the children completely, preoccupied in their own worlds.
Little Bradley reminded me of how even as adults, recognition is important. Yes, most of us learn to keep our pleas for attention in check engaging in more sociably acceptable behaviors. But, the desire and (dare I say it) even the need for receiving acknowledgement doesn’t disappear. Nor should it.
It’s much easier if someone else just notices our accomplishments or contributions and then sings our praises. But, that doesn’t always happen. You know, we work really hard at something and no one notices. A project runs smoothly due to our actions but the kudos either are given to another person or don’t come at all. This can create resentment, demotivation, and hurt feelings.
There is something to be said about feeling confident enough in ourselves that we don’t need the recognition of other people. Silently we feel contented knowing our own accomplishments. We downplay any attention passing off acknowledgement of our hard work by saying it wasn’t a big deal. After all keeping our ego in balance is more mature. Yet, darn it, sometimes we just feel like running up on that bridge, like Bradley, and yelling out, “Hey, look at me!”
As adults, receiving recognition is validation for our hard work. It can motivate us to continue our efforts to achieve more results. If you are on social media, who doesn’t enjoy lots of likes on Facebook or retweets on Twitter? Or maybe it’s getting lots of views on YouTube or hits on our website. Perhaps it’s feeling the love from letters in the mail or unexpected phone calls. These are all small ways for us to gain a sense of validation for something we have done or said or shared.
So, where is the line? No surprise that people will handle things differently because we are all unique! We all have strengths and weaknesses. None of us are perfect. Everyone has things they do well and things they don’t. Each person has their own level of need for acknowledgment and their own ways of getting it. And frankly, we may agree or disagree with their elected attention seeking tactics.
For me, it’s easier to recognize the accomplishments of others rather than stand up like Bradley shouting for others to notice me. But then again, in reality, sometimes our livelihood depends on sharing our products, projects and opinions with others and we have no choice but to bring those items to the forefront.
It goes without saying that some will never say anything themselves, some will shout it from the roof tops, and others will fall somewhere in between. No matter how large or small, we all have something to feel proud of. Accept it, in your own way.
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